One Nation, Under a P.C. God

President Bush’s desire to fulfill his presumably messianic mission to lead this great nation is beginning to disquiet many in the American public. All of his speeches appear to revert to the same concept: America, infused with a religious morality, must defend the heavenly good and defeat the satanic evil. For the president, the ethical lines are sharply drawn: Al-Qaeda bad, United States good; tyranny bad, freedom good; homosexuality bad, heterosexuality good. Bush’s absolute faith appears to overwhelm all other considerations by suffusing him with a sense of moral certainty and self-righteousness. In his theistically dominated mind, America must use its God-given power to regulate the affairs of the world and to penetrate despotic nations on a so-called “crusade” of democracy. Yet, despite the claims of leftist groups, President Bush, even with his overt religious connections, is no right-wing orthodox fanatic. Bush’s proud declamation that Jesus remains in his heart and his confession that his favorite philosopher is Christ prove that religion serves as purely a moral guide to direct his secular executive agenda. In summoning such deistic sentiments, Bush draws on an integral part of American cultural and political life. The broadcasting of morality by the government is a timeless political technique, dating back to the Jim Crow laws and temperance movement. Abraham Lincoln constantly referred to the “will of God” to justify the Civil War. And while the United States espouses no official religion, preaching and prayer have always played conspicuous roles in society: despite the campaigning of our founding fathers for the erection of an Iron Curtain between government and theology, sacrosanct references still surface everywhere from our currency (In God We Trust), to our pledge of allegiance (“one nation under God”), to our courts, where we place our hands on the Bible and promise “to tell the whole truth.” Yet, as the scientific revolution realizes an increasingly absolute fruition, religion is delegated to the back burner. In this technological age, Bush’s references to the Creator are steadily becoming anachronisms, mythical allusions to a medieval time of dungeons and chivalry. Now, political controversies erupt over even small indications of intermingling between theism and polity, such as the communal display of the Ten Commandments, the performance of Christmas carols in schools, and the recitation of the pledge of allegiance in public academia. Drowning under a wave of political correctness, we greet our neighbors with “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings,” bleep out the utterance of “Jesus” on national television as if it were a swear (The View, May 23, 2002), and even forbid our siblings to wear red and green scarves to school (Rochester, Minnesota). Indeed, Bismarck’s Kulturkampf has carried over into our modern age with new vigor, and the confused Republican party has become its primary target. Conservatives are already perplexed enough: they believe in fiscal responsibility, yet have augmented federal spending by 33% in four years; they believe in limited government, yet, with their implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, are increasingly inclined to the structure of a social-welfare state; they believe in free trade, yet they have imposed tariffs on myriad industries; they believe in individual liberties, yet they push to regulate abortion and right-to-die decisions; they believe in state’s rights, yet they divvy a disproportionately large part of public education to the federal government with the No Child Left Behind Act. Modern conservatives have thus overhauled liberal credenda to support a new big-government republicanism, a complete reversal on the ideas of Hobbes and Locke. In this conservative bureaucracy, moral values matter more than size, the underlying belief being that the powerful will inevitably overwhelm the weak (slavery, segregation, and despotism, for example) unless restrained by ethical truths. And the best way to instill moral values, according to Bush and his supporters, is through religion. The strength of twenty-first century conservatism lies in its aforementioned ability to adapt to the times, to thwart failing reactionary policies and to undertake more progressive agendas. Granted, the perceived intellectual weakness and moral uncertainty of the leadership of the opposition, compounded by the popularity of Ronald Reagan, has helped to make conservatism a political tour de force. However, Republicans risk losing their present-day prominence by blurring the distinct lines between politics and religion. In order to survive in a society saturated with moral relativism, the GOP must replace its religious zeal with a toned down modesty that advocates a more neutral stance on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty. It must supplant irresponsible fiscal spending, which imperils individual liberties, with a controlled budget. Most importantly, Republican politics must cease to be a righteous moral crusade and the government revert to its intended purpose: to protect and advance the civil liberties and welfare of its people.